me and madeleine…

Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work…I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.” And the artist either says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,”…or refuses…As for Mary, she was little more than a child when the angel came to her; she had not lost her child’s creative acceptance of the realities moving on the other side of the everyday world. We lose our ability to see angels as we grow older, and that is a tragic loss.

Obedience is still an unpopular word. So is abortion. But that’s what you’re talking about, isn’t it, Madeleine? The work, as you say, comes to me in seed or embryonic form and I can bear it or not, enflesh it or refuse, birth it or abort it. I realize that’s incredibly powerful language, possibly even offensive to some, but that’s what you’re talking about, isn’t it, Madeleine? The sins that beset the artist most may be those of omission, the if-onlys: if only I had the time to write or if only I had a creative space to arrange my easel and paints or if only I was surrounded by a supportive community of artists or if only I would’ve started earlier in life…

In the beginning the request is simply our willingness to bear the unseen, the faith of a child. We cringe at Herod’s slaughter of the innocents as recorded in scripture, as we should. How many works, whether innocents of great genius or very small, are likewise thrown away because we’ve grown old, too old for angels, too old for obedience? That is what you’re talking about, isn’t it, Madeleine?

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  1. katie on August 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I think about how people say that you know you’re a writer when you can’t not write. This idea has always rankled in me; it sounds nice but feels wrong. Even the most undisputed artists can refuse to answer a creative call. It may hurt to say no to an idea, but I’ve performed my own idea-abortions on numerous occasions. Feels like sin. (Another uncomfortable word, like obedience.)

    Thanks for publicly following Madeleine’s words to see where they go in you. She’s one of my writer-heroes.

    • thebeautifuldue on August 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Katie…I like folks who can be rankled.

      I have to admit I’ve had that ‘can’t not write’ feeling, but I agree w/you in that even then it can still be refused or piddled around with or given a half-hearted try, all abortive measures in their own way.

  2. jewelz57 on August 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    WOW, this hits me in several places…. I’ve had that “can’t not” feeling too. It’s driven me forward to write. But there has been another side of this gift that I’ve struggled to “own”…. I look around and see the enormous amount of people who are “writers” and I say to myself, “what’s the point, really?” No matter how many people tell me that I’m gifted or that they think I should write a book the words still find their place in my head, “what’s the point?”… I’m just a simple housewife with lots of words…. I have found it hard to step into and “own” this seed of life that I’ve been given. I have to tell you this… I started by blog on accident 4 years ago. I had received a Christmas letter from Meredith and she had a link to her blog. I wanted to respond and suddenly I had a blog of my own. So in some ways I say that Meredith helped get me started blogging. I wrote for 4 years on and off and then just got stuck. I wanted to shut it all down…but something inside me wouldn’t let me. Therefore a few weeks ago I started afresh, with a brand new blog, finally embracing this gift that’s been placed in me. The words “what’s the point” still find their way into my day to day life… This blog post hit home for me in a way that I needed. Thank you, John… Julie

  3. shan k on August 12, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I can sit in pools of paint and gleefully dabble with creation for days when it feels good. And when it feels good, it feels very good and it is easier to paint than not to. But there are days when I feel the shape of the unseen in me, but it is clouded in nettles and it does not feel good to sit down and pull it out. On those days, it feels like work. So much easier to call in apethetic to work than to plunge into nettles. The times I try anyway always seem to quiet the insidious fear in me that whispers, ‘You are just a crafter, no artist.’. But only for the day.

    • thebeautifuldue on August 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm

      The insidious fear speaks to me too…different phrases, but that common word – ‘just’ – just a crafter, just a piddler, just a dreamer…I agree w/you that the fear is tempered usually only for the day…maybe that’s some of what’s behind the need for daily bread and the need to ask for it each day.

  4. Bare Branches on April 27, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    you are so good, this is so good – you and madeleine both. (L’engle I presume?)

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